Kehillah Jewish High School, an independent college-preparatory school in Palo Alto, has spent this summer revamping the Fabian Way campus in what the school calls its "biggest campus construction project" since opening its doors in 2005.
Facing fast-growing enrollment numbers, the 50,000-square-foot site was in need of upgrades, but the school also wanted to "optimize" facilities for its full capacity of 240 students, which Head of School, Rabbi Darren Kleinberg, said he anticipates reaching in the 2017-18 school year. The school currently enrolls 215 students.
Students returning this fall will benefit from four new classrooms and three "break-out rooms," an expanded multi-purpose room, a larger Learning Center and a relocated, redesigned and expanded black-box theater, according to a press release from the school. Other new bells and whistles include a soundproofed music room, professional recording studio and practice room; a library that has been redesigned to "meet 21st-century learning and research needs;" an upgraded Wi-Fi network; new Laboratory for Engineering Arts; and additional bathrooms, including two all-gender bathrooms.
In the last three years, the various metrics the school tracks around enrollment inquiries, open-house attendance and shadow days have "gone through the roof," Kleinberg told the Weekly. The high school added for the first time this year a waitlist, with the incoming freshman class at full capacity.
Kleinberg said he and the Kehillah Board of Directors began discussing a year ago what might be next for Kehillah given this growth.
For a high school that boasts a six-to-one student-teacher ratio and an average class size of 12, these discussions are exploring questions like, "Do we like the size we are? Do we want to grow?" Kleinberg said.
"We currently have the sense that there is room to grow beyond 240 because of the kind of interest we've had, but that's a serious question about size of school, culture, the type of experience we want to create for our students," he said. "It's a question we are dealing with but have not yet come to a conclusion."
This summer, Kehillah is also making some security upgrades with the help of a $75,000 Department of Homeland Security school-safety grant. Kleinberg declined to discuss specifics of the upgrades, but said they were "developed and implemented in close consultation with the Palo Alto Police Department, the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) and a security vendor "to make sure our campus is as secure as it could possibly be."
There have been no specific incidents related to security at Kehillah, Kleinberg said, but "as I'm sure you can imagine, everyone in school leadership has a heightened sensitivity to security given events in the last five, six years all around the country."
"It was a proactive decision and one I think was the right one," he added.
All improvements are scheduled to be completed by the first day of school this fall, according to the school.